At our preschool in Calabasas, there are no limits for our preschool children at this age; they have boundless energy and unlimited curiosity. Our classrooms encourage exploration with sensorial materials—objects to touch, hold, move, spin, and smell—and everything is sized to fit the child’s hand. The 3-year cycle provides a close community and the opportunity for younger children to observe and learn from older students. The curriculum is rich and includes practical life skills, language, math, geography, science, nature, art, music, and Spanish. And every lesson stresses the use of grace and courtesy.
Children’s House Profile
- Mixed age classrooms for children age 3–6
- Classes meet five days a week
- Children ages 3 and 4 dismiss at noon
- Third year students (age 5) have an “extended day” and dismiss at 2:50
- The Extended Day program has a lower child–teacher ratio, usually 7:1
Children’s House Experience
Call it the blue bag processional.
It happens every weekday morning. Over 200 children between the ages of 3 and 6 go up the hill with blue bags. The bags are dragged, carried, and tossed. Some are empty, some loaded with goodness knows what. But it’s part of the ritual: a new day is dawning in Children’s House.
Entering the classroom, each child is greeted with a personal word and a warm handshake. That’s when the fun really begins.
Work is child’s play
Children’s House is the very core of the Montessori method for it was with this age group that Maria Montessori, over 100 years ago, redirected the educational process. During her exacting research, she observed that more learning takes place during this period than at any other time of life. And she noted that children learn best at their own pace by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. With these observations as the foundation, she opened the Casa di Bambino.
Our Children’s House follows her model. Each classroom is equipped with a basic set of materials, each specific to one skill. These materials—including the moveable alphabet, the bead frame, and the thermic tablets—are designed to be touched, held, moved, smelled, and experienced as only a young child can.
But what do the children say?
Nothing. They don’t have time. They are too busy making snacks and inviting their friends to share. Moving independently from one work to the next. Washing windows, gardening, and hammering nails. Tracing letters with their fingertips and shapes with their pencils. Creating maps of the world. Making exchanges at the bank. Singing in Spanish. Making decisions. Working. Playing. Learning. Whew.
Three little words
Ask our Directors what part of the curriculum really sets us apart and they will reply, practically in unison, “Grace and courtesy.”
Here, the independent graces—respect, courtesy, and peace—underscore each lesson. This is both the vision and success of our Children’s House.
Teachers have a lot of respect for the children and show them how responsible they are expected be. As they get older, they
set the example for the other kids and they become leaders and teachers and guides to the younger children. At a young age they learn to help each other, to collaborate, cooperate.
Think of the materials as the framework and respect as the atmosphere. As important as these are, Children’s House would not be the rich environment it is without other vital components.
Consider our faculty. Our lead staff has completed a special Montessori training. Not only does this provide more education than most preschool teachers, it is specfic to the age group. Dee explains, “Because our training was not for K–8th grade but [ages] 3–6, we have a stronger understanding of this developmental stage.”
Language lessons, in the form of songs, dances, and games, are offered.
Finally, mixed ages and the three-year cycle give depth to the program and to each child. Imagine the comfort of a 3-year old surrounded by older friends, the pride of a 4-year old celebrated by peers, and the confidence of a 5-year old who shepherds the young.